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Scrutinising the electric vehicle material backpack
KTH, School of Industrial Engineering and Management (ITM), Machine Design (Dept.), Machine Elements.ORCID iD: 0000-0001-7401-4550
KTH, School of Architecture and the Built Environment (ABE), Sustainable development, Environmental science and Engineering.ORCID iD: 0000-0002-5535-6368
KTH, School of Industrial Engineering and Management (ITM), Machine Design (Dept.).
2018 (English)In: Journal of Cleaner Production, ISSN 0959-6526, E-ISSN 1879-1786, Vol. 172, p. 1699-1710Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

Conventionally the use phase of a road vehicle contributes to more than 70% of the total environmental impact in terms of energy use or emissions of greenhouse gases. This figure is no longer valid concerning electric vehicles and a shift to other life cycle stages and impacts is expected and should be re-evaluated. The goal of this study is to assess the environmental performance of two prototype vehicle drivetrains; an internal combustion engine and an electric motor, from a life cycle perspective. The assessment is performed in a qualitative manner using the Environmentally Responsible Product Assessment (ERPA) matrix. The two vehicles in this study have similar car body construction, providing an excellent opportunity to highlight the significance of material differences in their drivetrains. The internal combustion vehicle demonstrated a better environmental performance in three out of five lifecycle stages (pre-manufacture, product manufacture, and disposal). In all of these stages, the impact of the electric vehicle is determined by the burden of the materials needed for this technology such as rare earth elements (REE) and by the lack of recycling possibilities. The study demonstrated a need to close the material cycle when it comes to Critical Raw Materials (CRM) such as REE which can only be achieved when the technology but also the incentives for material recovery are provided, i.e. by promoting the development of cost-efficient recycling technologies. Moreover, the need for relevant metrics and assessment indicators is demonstrated to be able to compare the two technologies fairly.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
ELSEVIER SCI LTD , 2018. Vol. 172, p. 1699-1710
Keywords [en]
environmentally Responsible Product, Assessment, Internal combustion engine vehicle, Electric vehicle, Critical raw materials, Rare earth elements, Drivetrain
National Category
Environmental Management
Identifiers
URN: urn:nbn:se:kth:diva-222427DOI: 10.1016/j.jclepro.2017.12.035ISI: 000423002200037Scopus ID: 2-s2.0-85038830921OAI: oai:DiVA.org:kth-222427DiVA, id: diva2:1186345
Note

QC 20180218

Available from: 2018-02-28 Created: 2018-02-28 Last updated: 2019-02-19Bibliographically approved
In thesis
1. Methodological Simplification in Comparative Life Cycle Assessment and Consequences on Validity
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Methodological Simplification in Comparative Life Cycle Assessment and Consequences on Validity
2019 (English)Doctoral thesis, comprehensive summary (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) is central to the development of sustainable products. LCA assesses the environmental impact of a product, service, or system through-out its whole life cycle, from material extraction to end-of-life phase. A comparative LCA compares alternative product-systems, or compares an existing product-system with a proposed redesign. All system parts that are identical between the compared products can be omitted from the LCA, and only those that differ need to be assessed. This simplification is called comparative LCA with omitted parts.

Valid results from LCAs are of high importance for decision support in areas such as choice of materials, manufacturing processes, and waste management. The validity of the LCA results is especially crucial to avoid sub-optimal and rash conclusions.

The purpose of this thesis is to investigate LCA simplification in order to gain knowledge and understanding of its effects on the validity of LCA results.

Four appended papers present five different levels of omission in comparative LCA transport case studies. The LCA models and simplifications are analysed against a defined isolation criteria checklist. The list is a guide to identifying the simplification, motivating the omission, and reasoning about the potential implications of both the omission and isolation.

The results show that to omit parts and exclusively assess only an isolated part does affect the model validity. The internal validity is strengthened and supports a more apparent cause-effect relationship that can help explain the conclusions and the recommendations of LCA. The external validity is weakened with lower generalisability of the result, especially from a long-term perspective.

There are further research opportunities within this area concerning the practical implications, investigations in other contexts, e.g. the biofuel industry, agriculture, and the building sector, and further quantitative studies. One of the practical contributions of this thesis, the isolation criteria checklist, could be developed into a more general guide for LCA practitioners.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Stockholm: KTH Royal Institute of Technology, 2019. p. 73
Series
TRITA-ITM-AVL ; 2019:2
Keywords
Life Cycle Assessment, internal validity, external validity, comparative LCA, isolated part, omitted part, road vehicles, drivetrains, disc brakes, isolation criteria checklist
National Category
Other Mechanical Engineering
Research subject
Machine Design
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:kth:diva-244308 (URN)978-91-7873-110-7 (ISBN)
Public defence
2019-03-22, Gladan, Brinellvägen 85, Stockholm, 10:00 (English)
Opponent
Supervisors
Available from: 2019-02-20 Created: 2019-02-19 Last updated: 2019-02-22Bibliographically approved

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Tasala Gradin, KatjaBjörklund, Anna

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